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Blast from the past — the key to nailing nostalgia in design

Old patterns and prints are back in fashion, but mastering the trend is more difficult than you think. Eleanor Flegg asks the experts how to  reinvent rather than reiterate a tradition

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Cath Kidston Printmaker Cuddler sofa in Kingdom Ditsy

Cath Kidston Printmaker Cuddler sofa in Kingdom Ditsy

Cath Kidston Printmaker Cuddler sofa in Kingdom Ditsy

Nostalgia was once considered an illness. In 1688, a Swiss physician called Johannes Hofer researched the behaviour of homesick Swiss mercenaries fighting abroad. His study established nostalgia as a disease.

This misapprehension lasted for 300 years (it was thought that only Swiss people suffered from nostalgia). Now, nostalgia is recognised as a complex emotion. It is a yearning for bygone times, a bittersweet cocktail of positive and negative feelings, but more sweet than sour. It can be experienced individually or collectively, and is often triggered by objects or motifs from the past. An old-fashioned trellis of rosebuds reminds us of kinder, safer times.


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